07 March 2011

Hand Me Down World by Lloyd Jones

Thoughts and Reflections
The first chapter had me boggled. Then second had me hooked on the writing style. By the ninth chapter, I was head over heels. I had not yet come across the form of narration used in this book. The story of the protagonist is told through clips from various individuals who had crossed her path. The story comes across somewhat choppy at first, leaving the reader craving for more information. However, the story fills in. I was never frustrated for lack of information, but rather drawn further in and made more curious.

Eventually the reader hears the view point of the protagonist. Some of the gaps are filled in, some of the events make sense, some things are left for the reader to question. In the very last section another view point is given, the point of view of the adopted mother of the protagonist's son. I found this account one of the most interesting, mostly because this character is barely mentioned during the story, but will undoubtedly be a key player in the future of the protagonist.

An interesting theme in this story is one's point of view. We hear the testimony of the main character and the witnesses and there are differences. I found this an interesting discussion. Furthermore, the motivation of the differences are briefly examined: did the story tellers deliberately keep some information to themselves or was this an accurate account of their experience.

The protagonist encounters all kinds of people, both cruel and kind. In learning about the story of the protagonist, we also learn tidbits about these random characters. They paint an interesting world and contributed to a full and bright storyline.The protagonist herself is an interesting character. She was both complex and flat as a character. I admired her strength and will. I didn't always understand her actions, but her motivation was clear: to reunite with her stolen son. On the one hand, the protagonist can be admired for her perseverance in pursuing her goal. On the other hand, she could be criticised for her single mindedness. She did not seem to consider consequences or have any forethought regarding her actions or future. At one point she is even compared to a drug addict, who does not consider the consequences of stealing to feed a habit, but only considers the need of the drug. Her single-mindedness leads the reader to questions whether her goal was worth all her trouble, whether a wiser decision would have been to walk away at various points, etc.

The idea of justice is persistent, but never directly discussed. Ines is chasing her child who was unjustly taken from her. However, despite the presence of the legal system, her case is never pursued. She does not find justice, but she does find some kinds of end, some method of reuniting with her child. The goal was the child, not justice. Kind of an interesting thought, I think.

The conclusion was one of hope. Events seemed to be spiralling, but the conclusion leaves the reader believing something good about humanity. All in all, I enjoyed the novel. I enjoyed the characters (whether I liked them or not, they all played important roles in story), the protagonist, the method of telling this story, and the conclusion.

Point of Interest:
Here is a link to a review in the Guardian on the book.

Brief Synopsis
This is the story of a Tunisian woman who worked in a hotel for foreign tourists in Tunisia. She became pregnant from one of the guests, Jermayne, with whom she thought she had a long term relationship. Jermayne, instead of beginning a future with the Tunisian woman and her child, steals the child and returns to his wife in Berlin. The story follows the woman, who is unnamed, but goes by alias Ines, as she follows Jermayne to Berlin in pursuit of her child and works her way into the life of her son. The story spans a number of years of her pursuit and traces her events from Tunisia to Berlin, Germany. The story is initially told by the series of character with whom Ines comes into contact. Eventually, the reader hears Ines depiction of events and also the account of the wife of Jermayne, the adopted mother of Ines' child.

About the Author
Lloyd Jones was born in Lower Hutt, New Zealand in 1955. He attended the Victoria University of Wellington, but did not graduate with his degree due to outstanding library fines. He received an honorary Doctorate from the University in 2009. He worked as a journalist and a consultant, but continued to write. He published his first work in 1985. In 2007 he won the Commonwealth Writer's Prize for Mister Pip. The novel was also short listed for the Man Booker Award.  Hand Me Down World was published in 2010.

Things I Loved about This Novel:
1. The writing style. I thoroughly enjoyed. You'll just have to experience it for yourself :)
2. The myriad of supporting characters that come into contact with the protagonist
3. The protagonist. That is a girl with gumption. I didn't always understand her decisions, but understood her drive to reunite with her son.

No comments: